After hearing that Kirk had received the President's Citation, we asked if he could answer a few questions for us...
Kirk, first off congratulations on graduating from Greenville! How does it feel to have your diploma and be moving on to grad school?
It still feels unreal. After four years, it's hard to imagine a life outside of Greenville and without my closest friends, but I'm also really excited to find out what's in store for me as I move forward. As of right now, it still hasn't set in though. It simply feels like another summer break from classes.
You knew going into graduation that you would achieve summa cum laude honors, but were you expecting to be receiving the President’s Citation?
I had absolutely no idea. I assumed that they would notify the recipient beforehand, but it turns out they keep it a surprise. In fact, right before graduation, one of my pre-med friends and I were discussing who we think won the award, but we were certain that it wasn't going to be either of us. It turns out that we were both finalists for the award, and I actually ended up winning it.
Some people may not know what the qualifications for winning this award are, What are they?
Greenville College describes the award as follows: "Each year, the award is given to the Greenville College graduating senior who has demonstrated the highest academic achievement in the context of a Christian liberal arts program. To be eligible for this award, the student must have completed a bachelor’s degree program and adhered consistently to the ideals of the institution."
What were your initial thoughts when Dr. Estevez called your name and asked you to come on stage?
Complete and utter shock. Like I said earlier, I was completely blindsided. As he was describing the award, I was eager to hear who had won it, but when he started to announce my name, I couldn't believe it. I graduated among so many phenomenal students, and I was certain that one of them deserved the honor more than I did. While standing on stage receiving the award, I had the realization that if it weren't for the amazing support from my family, coaches, teachers, and friends, I couldn't have accomplished any of it. There were so many times that I felt like quitting on football, on my honors thesis, and even on college as a whole, and if it weren't for the people that God placed in my life and their amazing encouragement, I would have never made it. Any recognition I received has to fall back on everyone who supported me and believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.
As you move on to the next phase of life, what wisdom or knowledge that you gained in your four years at Greenville will you be taking with you?
The first important thing I've learned is to be humble in everything that I do. It doesn't matter what I accomplish in life, I always have to remember that I wouldn't have made it alone. The true recipients of any award I receive are God and everyone else involved in getting me to that point. I've also learned to put aside my personal views and focus on loving people. Regardless of political or religious beliefs, the question in my mind should always be "How can I love that person or group of people better?". Greenville College has taught me how to respect and understand different perspectives and beliefs even if I disagree with them. Lastly, I learned to never underestimate my capabilities. I would have never imagined myself pursuing a PhD in Chemistry. In fact, I remember thinking how unrealistic that would be. However, I learned that I don't need to be concerned with what my potential is and what is limiting me. If I focus on being the best version of me that I can be, then the results will take care of themselves and I will do far greater things than I ever imagined possible.
Is there anything you would like to say to upcoming seniors in terms of preparing to graduate?
As cliche as it is, don't miss out on everything that Greenville College has to offer. Take in as much as you can during your last year here. But most importantly, as you move on from GC, remember Christ's commission to his disciples: "Freely you have received, freely give." Whether you acknowledge it or not, you have been extremely blessed to be in the presence of such great faculty, coaches, and friends at Greenville. As you move forward, find a way to be that same blessing to others.
What are your plans for the upcoming fall semester?
In August, I will move to Blacksburg, Virginia and start taking classes. In addition to taking classes, I'll be teaching undergraduate laboratory courses as well as joining a research group under a faculty member at Virginia Tech. My research will be concerned with high accuracy electronic structure methods. More importantly, I'll be buying season tickets for Virginia Tech football games. I'll also be visiting many former Greenville College Football coaches who are now at Bluefield College in Virginia, about an hour and a half from where I'll be.